So you had a chance to ask your questions to World of Tanks warfare expert Yuriy Pasholok who has got outstanding knowledge of tanks in general with his primary specialization being Soviet tanks. He is also the co-author of recently published Maus book.

Here is the first batch of his replies. Pasholok's replies are bolded (just in case).

1. Much has been made of how advanced and technologically superior German armor was to everyone else of the time, especially against Russian armor. I loved reading the comparative armor reports on, but are you able to give us anything more definitive about how armor quality changed over the years of the Great War? Especially of Russian armor, of course ;)

The Military Scientific Research Institute in Leningrad, also known as the Research Institute-48 (Open Joint Stock Company “Koplin Scientific Research and Project Designing Academy of Metallurgical Machine Building” today), handled the armor sphere in the USSR before and during the war. Besides the armor composition improvement worked on the armor protection: for example, the IS-6 hull, the IS-3 ‘pike nose’, the IS-7 tank, and several other renowned machines number were designed there. Armor and its quality will be discussed in detail in future blog entries and my articles.

The armor quality didn't depend greatly on the situation at the front, and differed from factory to factory. In spring 1944, for instance, the Red Army faced the issue of inferior in quality cast armor, cracks in turrets, and welds of inferior quality. The problem was related to a number of tank production facilities, but not all of them. There was a case, for example, when the IS-3 frontal plate broke in two pieces, while a similar hull, produced at a different production facility, did pass the test.

2. The typical western thinking is that Russia used so much HE shells because their AP shell technology was inferior to the task. What is your insight on this, and as to how effective HE actually was against German tanks, especially in relation to the above question, as armor changed?

By the summer of 1941, the Soviet Army faced an acute shortage of armor piercing rounds for calibers of 76+ mm. Things were changing fast in June, 1941 and several Soviet Army tank units ended up with absolutely no armor piercing shells, and they often fought with nothing, but high explosive rounds. The 85mm anti-aircraft guns often fired high-explosives shells for the very same reason.

3. Mr. Walter Christie appears to have had a great influence on Russian tank design beginning in the inter-war period, though not so much in his own country. How is he perceived from your perspective?

I’m positive that John Walter Christie deserves to have a monument erected in his honor. He designed the first vehicle for maneuverable combat that combined high mobility and descent for its time firepower. Christie’s tank concept gave the ground base for the German PzKpfw III, while Soviet and British vehicles built from it became most mass produced machines of World War II. Even nowadays, the main battle tank used in one particular country, the Merkava tank comes with the suspension, similar to the Christie model.

Christie is an example that genuinely talented people can often be unlucky. His research suffered from the military budget cuts after World War I, the Great Depression made it even worse, and his competitors wrapped it up. Christie’s designs and suspension faced heavy criticism even though some of its major shortcomings had been eliminated by the engineer himself. His competitors took a hand in it. No wonder all American tanks from the late 1930’s had a very similar design to Chistie’s model. By the way, all of them were built with the support of the same person who is called "the Chief Designer of American tanks" in Soviet documents of 1941 and was among Christie’s most harsh critics. That is the story of tank-related non-transparency and corruption, I don't like it.

4. Your favorite tank of all time?

T-34, victory tank, that has served faithfully for 50 years.

5. Can You tell us more about characteristics of each tank in IS series? In-game they are pretty much mixed up, as IS-8 is considered weaker than IS-7, and IS-4 is far greater than IS-6. To sum up: they are in a very random order that does not match their real development. Is that because some versions were made from scratch, and not by further development of previous versions, or maybe these projects were just a bit to complicated and had to be "dumbed down" to simplify and reduce potential costs?

Vehicle indices don’t always correspond to the order the tanks were developed. The first tank with the IS-3 index is The Object 239, which was the first IS prototype with the 85 mm S-31 gun. The Object 701 received its index “IS-4” in 1946, while its first prototype was built in the summer of 1946 –six months before the IS-3 pilot (Object 701). Moreover, the work on the IS-6 tank (Object 252 and Object 253) began at the Plant # 100 in strict secrecy in the winter of 1944. In 1945 engineers from the plant moved from Chelyabinsk to Leningrad, where they produced the IS-7 tank (Object 260). The IS-8 (Object 730) that would later become the T-10 tank was designed in Chelyabinsk. That is why it’s so similar to the IS-3. In a way, the epic battle between the Plant#100 (later the Research Institute-100) and the Chelyabinsk Kirov Plant is similar to that of the Experimental Plant#185 and the Kirov Plant in late 30’s.

6. We have alot of new Chinese tanks just on their way. We all know that most of them were licensed versions of soviet vehicles, so many parts of these tanks should be nearly the same. At the same time the Chinese had to make some changes to fit their own technology, and I suppose some things were kept secret at that moment, so they might have not gotten the entire vehicle technology, but some sort of "basic elements" that were lacking a finishing touch. What exactly were the nuances and tiny differences that make these machines different?

Chinese school of tank construction shall be treated with understanding and respect. Lots of people in Russia and other countries around the globe are carping at Soviet industry of 1934-1940’s while not considering the country of that period was pillaged in World War I and Civil wars, and Russian people were hardly able to write or to read at that period. Regarding Chinese nation, they suffered even more. People went through perpetual hostility against their nation tearing their country apart for decades. Chinese had to create their industry from nothing. It explains why the technologies of that time were just the worse copies of the original. However, the Chinese engineers made a number of uncommon solutions, with some of which players will be acquainted later (or already acquainted). Modern China is one of the few countries able to build a decent tank from the own-produced components. England, for example, has lost its tank industry. It remains to be seen if they made the right decision, since the tank hasn't said the last word on battlefield yet.

We are working with one of the leading experts in Chinese tanks. I hope to see his publications on the tank-construction of 1940-1960’s to come out one day. You can trust me, there are lots of surprises.

7. Some tanks were designed for a totaly different kind of warfare after the second world war (like Object 279 that was focused on surviving a nublear blastwave), did this pursue of making them resistant to new kinds of weapons make them a bit more vounreable to the traditional armor piercing and high explosive rounds? These bizarre projects looks very much like a compromise, and it is clear that they had to be inferior in some categories to gain these totaly new atributes in other matters.

The studies of Research Institute-48 mentioned above ended up in the Object 279 project. A-22 and Object 907 medium tanks were also designed there in collaboration with the Research Institute-100 , as should be noted. The specification included the requirement to protect the turret sides from the penetration with 128 mm shell – and it was fulfilled. The feature was implemented on the medium tank, for the record. As post war documents are being slowly declassified, we are just going to face new revelations.

8. With the characteristic late war speed and low profile on most russian tanks they would obviously be hard to hit tank vs tank, however would it be realistic to believe those tanks on average could withstand more direct hits than a western tank of similar comparison before being reliably knocked out?

Specification for the Soviet tanks in the second half of 1942 included quite strict weight requirement with ever-growing demands on armor protection and equipment improvements. So the T-44 medium tank appeared, that was lower and lighter than T-34, while having enhanced armor. The price for the revolutionary design, however, was high –T-44 needed a lot of time to become really battle-capable and worthy, that happened only in the late 1945. Till then the tank failed performance tests with admirable regularity. Every innovative tank developed has always faced this.

A low profile didn’t mean to be the main point in T-34 creation, but later it had been always considered in the Soviet tanks design. As a result of this improvement stride, Soviet and Russian tanks have the lowest profiles. Other countries came to this as well, for the record: “Abrams” MBT, which is higher than T-72 for 20 cm only, replaced the massive M60 with more than 3m in its height. Obviously, Soviet engineers moved in the right direction.

Regarding speed, it wasn’t the major characteristic. Tank reliability and its capability to march for hundreds of kilometers was appreciated much higher. Tank weight for these purposes was crucial. “KV-1” heavy tank at some point was overthrown with excessive armor ended up in crashes of dozens vehicles. Tanks that were produced at the beginning of 1942 had armouring similar to “Tiger” heavy tank.

Excessive weight made IS-4 heavy tank to fall out of the improvement race and would fall KV-3 with the rest KV-4/KV-5 out as well. However, it’s clear why the Soviet tank designers tried not to cross the line of 50 tons after the war’d ended.

9. it is widely known, that russian armor and the t34 in particular came as a shock to the germans, the germans thus learned from this and copied the ideas of sloped armor, wider tracks and better suspension (and maybe others wich i dont know yet) into there designs after the inviasion. But wich particular design concepts from the germans where learned from and coppied into russian design? Both before the war, during the war and imediatly afterwards.

The Soviets purchased one German PzKpfw III in 1940 and during the 1940-1941 all tank plants kept study on it. As a result, T-50 got its commander's hatch, turret traverse indicator, and color signals for the driver. The T-34 medium tank wasn’t lucky in getting commander’s hatch as well as triple turret. It got it only in 1943, though tries to implement it’d occurred much earlier. As far as further adoptions are concerned, we can't but mention "Ferdinand-type" muzzle break, that was used for early 122mm D-25T gun and 100mm BS-3 gun, and also "Panther-type" hull junction.

10. Were there any vechicles based on IS-4 chassis?:) There should be some considering the fact that there were some on IS-7 chassis and this tanks was not mass produced.

In the late 1945 documents there are requirements for 152 mm and 130 mm self-propelled guns, for which according to their specs, IS-4 suspension had to be used. Alas, as IS-4 hadn’t seen mass production, self-propelled guns on its basis were not developed in prototypes either. Search for the best does not always results in something good.

To be continued.